Scotland Policy Conferences

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Next steps for qualifications and assessment reform in Scotland

Morning, Monday, 4th December 2023

This conference will examine the future of the qualifications and assessment system in Scotland.

It takes place as The Scottish Government considers its response to the Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment, led by Professor Louise Hayward, who is a keynote speaker at this conference, which recommended:

  • that students should not sit exams before fifth year
  • the introduction of a Scottish Diploma of Achievement (SDA) as a Senior Phase graduation certificate
  • a digital profile for all learners to record personal achievements and plan for future education

Speakers will also discuss proposals to replace the SQA and approaches for inspection in education going forward, with a consultation launched by The Scottish Government in November which will inform forthcoming legislation.

It will be an opportunity to discuss the Review’s implications, as well as priorities for building qualifications fit for the future; exploring technical routes, and pathways into higher education and employment.

Delegates will look at the proposed introduction, and likely impact on teachers and learners, of the SDA and its possible three major sections, alongside the drive towards digital skills, with proposed reforms aiming to equip learners with the qualifications needed to thrive in a future digital environment.

Further sessions will look at reforming and broadening assessment methods, including the utilisation of technology and the future role of AI and digital assessment.

Overall, areas for discussion include:

  • system reform: priorities moving forward for developing an effective qualification system - key findings from the Independent Review - challenges and opportunities around a proposed SDA
  • responding to proposals: supporting learners and teachers - meeting the needs of colleges, universities and employers - exploring development of personal pathways and programmes of learning 
  • best practice:
    • lessons from the 2023 exam season - moving forward from the impact of COVID-19 on student attainment and assessment reliability
    • next steps for improving and futureproofing the qualifications system 
  • methodology: assessing the future of formative, summative and high-stake assessment - potential responsibilities of teachers
  • utilising technology: reforming and broadening assessment methods - remote and digital assessment and invigilation - increasing the use of assistive technology to improve accessibility
  • AI: responding to the rise of artificial intelligence - assessing opportunities and risks of increased use of AI within assessment - preventing malpractice - potential to ease teacher workloads 
  • quality assurance: utilising data to improve school accountability - examining the future of assessment regulation
  • skills and the economy: ensuring qualifications are flexible and able to respond to changes - the role of skills and qualifications in boosting the economy
  • student progression: assessing pathways into higher education and employment - building partnerships with employers to aid progression - transforming careers guidance for learners

The conference will be an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who are due to attend from the DBT; Department for the Economy, NI; Department of Education, NI; Department of Education, ROI; DfE; Education Scotland; Ofqual; The Scottish Government; and the Welsh Government.

Keynote Speakers

Professor Louise Hayward

Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment and Innovation, University of Glasgow; and Lead, Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment

Fiona Robertson

Chief Executive, Scottish Qualifications Authority

Carole Ford

Member, Commission on School Reform

Keynote Speakers

Professor Louise Hayward

Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment and Innovation, University of Glasgow; and Lead, Independent Review of Qualifications and Assessment

Carole Ford

Member, Commission on School Reform

Fiona Robertson

Chief Executive, Scottish Qualifications Authority


Martin Whitfield MSP

Deputy Party Spokesperson on Children and Young People, Scottish Labour


Sandy Begbie

Chief Executive Officer, Scottish Financial Enterprise

Angharad Lloyd Beynon

Policy, Stakeholder and Partnerships Manager (Nations and Ireland), City and Guilds

Cheryl Burnett

Vice Chair, National Parent Forum of Scotland

Dr Jen Ross

Senior Lecturer, Centre for Research in Digital Education, University of Edinburgh

Caroline McFarlane

Headteacher, Banff Academy, Aberdeenshire

Allan Crosbie

Vice President, Educational Institute of Scotland

Andy Witty

Director of Strategic Policy and Corporate Governance, Colleges Scotland

Andrea Bradley

General Secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland

Professor Sally Smith

Head of Graduate Apprenticeships and Skills Development, Edinburgh Napier University

Michael Webb

Director of Technology and Analytics, Jisc